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Indigenous All Stars captain Johnathan Thurston is very active in promoting Indigenous issues.

Former head coach Matt Elliott has praised the influence that Indigenous Round can have in the game but says that the process of education must continue.

This week the NRL celebrates the contribution of Indigenous athletes in our game while also drawing attention to the 'RECOGNISE' campaign that seeks to institute constitutional reform to recognise Australia's first peoples.

Rugby league has a proud history of Indigenous athletes in our game and was the first sport to make an Indigenous Australian as captain of a national team but according to Elliott there is more work that can be done.

Writing in the special Indigenous Round issue of Big League this week, Elliott says that he spoke to a number of past and present Indigenous players and found a recurring theme in their responses.

"Many players felt that when inappropriate comments were made, the perpetrator was largely unaware of the impact of the insult," Elliott says in the Round 22 issue of Big League.

"As one former player said: 'These comments insult where you're from, who you are and your people in the same way as if someone made a derogatory comment about your mother. You may not react or show outward signs, but there's an internal hurt that can build up.'

"Our game has seen so many great Indigenous players whose legacy is being enhanced by the current group including superstars Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis.

"There’s an opportunity this weekend to celebrate the wonderful Indigenous influence on rugby league and to honour it.

"We can also remind others around us that, with greater awareness, we can impact lives positively."

As has been demonstrated in the recent events surrounding AFL star Adam Goodes, Elliott believes the key in eliminating racism from all sporting codes and indeed society as a whole is for people to understand how deeply racist comments affect those subjected to it.

"There seems to be a key factor missed in the Adam Goodes case and this was reinforced by the NRL players I spoke to," Elliott says. "That factor? The impact of racism on the individual is missed and lumped in to a larger issue, where extreme views are thrown up.

"When asking what the best solution would be, there was one response: Education. Let players, fans and the community know what is hurtful and what is fine in all environments and reinforce it.

"If you're on a playing field or have paid to get in to a ground, any desire to use inappropriate behaviours or language is put on hold for the duration of the game.

"What is the impact of the Indigenous Round and the All Stars game? According to the players I spoke to, it’s resoundingly positive.

"It brings us pride, to have our culture showcased across the league. You can only be grateful to the NRL for the recognition."

The Round 22 issue of Big League is on sale now from newsagents and at the ground. Digital version also available from Zinio.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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